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Older women are more interesting.

They just are. Experienced. Stories to tell. Jokes. A sense of humour about themselves. They dress better too, declining to follow the pack and indulge in fashion fads aimed at waifs who are obliged to look both anorexic and angry at all times in order to seem cool.

A mature man (I'm flattering myself on the matter of maturity, but stick with me here) likes an older woman with a better story than that of the flibbertigibbet who has boyfriend issues and talks too much about her therapist.

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Case in point, tonight's TV. There is a ton of TV aimed at women. Some of it is so obsessively focused on shoes, shopping, sex, the joys/avoidance of chocolate cake and the appeal of square-jawed male airheads, that it should carry a warning in the TV listings: "Not For Men." Mind you, some of it is classier than that.

Being Erica (CBC, 9 p.m.) returns to start its second season. It started last season as a class act, a smart, serious and nuanced show. Not silly chick-flick material, but obviously intended to please female viewers, especially twenty- and thirtysomethings. It's all about Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk), a 32-year-old singleton in Toronna who feels like a failure. She's single and drifts through dead-end jobs. She blames herself for her mistakes. She falls in with a therapist, known simply as Dr. Tom (Michael Riley), who can send her back into her past so she can make an effort to correct her mistakes. Or at least face them.

As the series progressed, though, Erica became less appealing and the show wandered into self-indulgence, along with its two main characters.

Unfortunately, tonight's new season opener is no improvement. Dr. Tom is no longer Erica's therapist but he turns up when another, mysterious therapist sends Erica back into the past. Is it her past or Dr. Tom's? I've ceased to care. Karpluk is a fine actor, brave and playing the role with physical and emotional gusto. But Erica is now a ditz, seems younger and less mature than her years, and the show has turned deeply irritating. The episode is all confusing shifts in tone and action. It's seems that Erica Strange has morphed into a helpless, hapless female that's a tad too whiny, and the set-up for the story of the fate of Dr. Tom is absurdly complicated and off-putting. Me, I used to like Erica, but I really don't give a rodent's posterior about Dr. Tom. What's happened now is that Erica's singleton life and obsessions are not exactly compelling. And Dr. Tom is a drip.

Like CBC, the U.S. network CBS is very, very keen on gaining female viewers. And now it's got a doozy of a drama to attract them.

The Good Wife (CBS, 10 p.m.) stars Julianna Margulies as Alicia, wife to a politician (Chris Noth) who is in deep trouble because of a sex-and-corruption scandal. It's a well-crafted, provocative drama that opens with blurry footage of the husband sucking the toes of a young prostitute. Then it cuts to Alicia standing silently beside her husband as he announces his resignation to the press. When they are next alone, Alicia slaps her husband hard across the face.

The husband ends up in jail. Alicia goes back to work as a lawyer, handling cases even as the daily TV news digs deeper and deeper into her husband's scandalous behaviour. In one particular scene, one of the couple's teenaged daughters calls Alicia to complain that kids are taunting her at school. They're telling her that her dad had sex with a prostitute younger than his own daughter. That isn't true, in the storyline, but the series is obviously anchored in true, torn-from-the-headlines drama.

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The Good Wife is very juicy TV. It aims to answer the question many people ask when a male politician is caught in a scandal and makes the obligatory public confession, wife by his side: "How can she do that?" The humiliation and the internal struggles of the wife are what intrigue people.

Here, the dynamic between the enraged wife and the egotistical husband is raw and utterly compelling. Casting Noth, famous as Mr. Big in Sex and the City , as the bad-guy husband was a stroke of genius. He oozes male rage and resentment at being caught.

And then there's the matter of Alicia having to return to work, after years of being the politician's decorative wife. At the office, Alicia is not only unused to the work, she has to face the obvious contempt of other women. Christine Baranski is particularly good as a boss who makes it subtly clear that she thinks Alicia is an idiot.

Tonight's episode is good, though it has a too-neat ending. (The producers acknowledge being "inspired" by the 1995 Brit miniseries The Politician's Wife , but say they're taking the story in a different direction.) There's plenty of scope for more acrid drama and, bluntly put, Alicia is a lot more interesting than the younger, suddenly whiny Erica Strange.

Check local listings.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More


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